Drop in airport passengers amid issues with carriers

Passengers spent nearly four hours on Edinburgh Airport tarmac. Picture: Greg Macvean

Passengers spent nearly four hours on Edinburgh Airport tarmac. Picture: Greg Macvean

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PASSENGER numbers at Edinburgh Airport have fallen amid a running dispute with Ryanair and uncertainty over the future of BMI.

Terminal traffic fell by 1.1 per cent during April compared with the same month last year but airport chiefs stress like-for-like comparisons are skewed by the record-breaking footfall achieved in 2011 while numbers at BAA’s other Scottish airports rose sharply.

The figures for the first four months of 2012 are down two per cent compared to the same period last year.

Ryanair and Edinburgh Airport have been at loggerheads over the terms of a new deal – the current contract expires in October – with the budget airline arguing that a low-cost deal on landing charges would spur growth for the Capital. In the fall-out, the Irish carrier has scrapped 13 routes from Edinburgh Airport claiming its contraction in the Capital could cost up to 500 jobs – a figure denied by airport chiefs.

In the last few days it has been reported that budget airline Bmibaby, which hosts many regional flights around the UK, is set to close in September, with some routes being axed from next month.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport, which was recently sold to Global Infrastructure Partners for £807.2 million, said last month’s performance was “mixed” which resulted in a “slight drop in passenger numbers”.

“Domestic flights excluding London suffered from uncertainty around BMI and European traffic was also slightly down,” he said.

But Ryanair said its cull of travel routes from Edinburgh had contributed to the decline which could become even more stark when their cuts bed in.

“There was always going to be a threat to passenger numbers from the fact that they would not agree to a low cost deal with us,” a spokesman said. “And we did cull our traffic and it will get deeper as we get into the summer.

He said the failure to strike a deal with the airport would have a “huge detrimental affect on traffic” to Edinburgh.

But he said Ryanair hoped to meet the airport’s new owners and “work out a low cost deal which would provide growth”.

Edinburgh saw record traffic of 9.4 million in 2011, beating the previous record set in 2009 by 400,000 passengers.

An airport source said the fall in passenger numbers could be attributed to a number of “complex factors” including the stagnant economy, the Ryanair dispute and difficulties with BMI.

And he added: “The issue we had last year was that we were comparing data with 2010 which was a shocker because of ash clouds and the snow. So we never celebrate when we post growth figures nor do we get too upset when the figures drop slightly.”

Edinburgh Airport is Scotland’s busiest airport, with more than 40 airlines serving upwards of 100 destinations.

david.mccann@edinburghnews.com